[This post originally appeared in House2House Magazine.]
When my husband and I moved to Detroit, we purchased a house on the Northwest side of the city, with our heart’s set on providing a safe home for our friends following Jesus and friends we would make who don’t yet know Him. It’s a decent-sized two-story house, with an apartment upstairs, an apartment on the main floor and now a fully finished basement apartment. At this present moment, we have two married couples, an unborn baby, two single guys, two single girls, and a kitten that only a few of us even like all living together. Together we have just endured the longest, coldest, snowiest winter Michigan has seen in 40-some years.
There are some serious perks to living in community. My husband and I are both in grad school and have extra expenses with a baby on the way, so the additional rent income from our housemates has been a miraculous lifesaver for us. The heat bill has been astronomical this winter, but with so many people sharing in the expense the burden has been bearable. With three refrigerators in the house, there’s almost always guaranteed to be an egg to borrow, or really anything you need for that matter. One of our housemates works at Whole Foods, so whatever forgotten grocery can’t be borrowed can be delivered when she gets home from work. There’s always someone to help dig you out when your car gets stuck in the snow or ice (and believe me, it happened many, many times this winter.) There’s almost always someone home to get packages from the FedEx guy and switch the laundry to the dryer when you forget. Often when I am really hankering for something sweet, someone bakes cookies and offers me one. Our 6am Friday morning prayer is now held in our living room, which means I can roll out of bed at 5:55am, stay in my PJs, and still make it on time.
A wise man named Joe Steinke has been known to say, “Community reads romantically and lives sacrificially.”
He’s right. There’s a least 30 pairs of boots clogging up the entry way. The wooden floors in our old house creak, which means every you can hear every step anyone ever takes. Everyone has different work schedules so you might hear music, conversations, a blender, coffee grinder, or singing coming from any part of the house at any given moment … and definitely always when you are desperate for a nap or need to crank out another page of homework before its due in an hour. The closets are bursting at the seams. The floors get dirtier faster and the bathroom rug always looks gross no matter how often I vacuum. Without fail, someone will set their stuff on the table or put a dirty dish in the sink minutes after I’ve just finished cleaning. The door to the entryway gets left open, which means the guys in the basement freeze. Stuff gets broken, the kitten eats plants, parking spots are rare commodities. There’s a line for the shower when I really have to pee and a line for the washer when I have no clean socks left. There’s often an extra person or two… or five… hanging around unexpectedly at dinnertime, which is great… unless you were banking on taking leftovers to work for lunch tomorrow. And to top it off, its been -10 outside for half the winter, which means escaping to the front porch or usually tranquil backyard are not an option. In fact, some days this winter, escaping at all has been impossible unless you wanted to risk your life driving on 3 inches of ice and 6 inches of snow.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?
This week I had a moment. Truthfully, I have a LOT of moments… definitely every day, sometimes every hour, but for now I’ll just confess one.
My husband and I had bought a package of organic, grass-fed beef bacon at the farmer’s market over the weekend. It was a little on the pricey side, but since being pregnant I’ve been trying to eat more protein for this little guy growing inside of me, so we felt like it was a worthwhile investment. I woke up starving this particular morning and knew just what I wanted – a solid breakfast with eggs, kale, left over homemade spelt cornbread and that fantastic bacon awaiting me in the fridge.
As I am preparing this breakfast for Myles and I, he is in the dining room helping one of our housemates polish up her resume. The whole time I am cooking I am simultaneously having a serious internal conflict: should I offer her some too? It would obviously be a kind gesture, something Jesus would do. But quite frankly, I don’t want to. This bacon is delicious. It was expensive, and I want to make it last for a few more meals. Our housemate isn’t much of a meat-eater, and besides I can see her empty cereal bowl on the counter, clearly indicating she already had breakfast. I should offer her some… but I don’t need to… I could… but that means less for me. By the time breakfast finishes sizzling, I successfully talk myself out of it, hand Myles his plate of steamy goodness, and retreat to my room to eat in peace and spend time with Jesus before heading to work.
The bacon tasted even better than I thought it might, but I was miserable the whole time eating it.
I can say that I trust God to provide for all my needs, that there is no lack in His kingdom. I can say that He gives me my daily bread – that I have never gone without. I could write out the entire history of my life and show you hundreds of examples of miraculous provision.
I can say that whoever sows generously will reap generously.
I can write a check to a friend whose dad just died or buy coats for some neighborhood boys that have outgrown theirs.
But the truth is, I am fearful. All these years of following Jesus, and I still genuinely think I have to provide for myself. I don’t actually really think there is enough to go around. I still doubt God will intervene. I have put limits on generosity… which isn’t really even generosity then, is it?
Sitting with Jesus, eating that stupid piece of bacon, He showed me that everyday living in this house I am faced with a series of choices: I can pretend that I am entitled to a certain amount of space and quiet – calling on my rights as a member of Western Culture – disregarding the fact that most of the rest of the world shares less space and less food with more people, and forgetting that I actually belong to a Greater Kingdom. I can ignore the prodding in my spirit towards generosity and seek my own provision and comfort. I can fake a smile, hide in my room, and secretly pray for everyone to disappear.
Or I can embrace the tension. I can acknowledge that my discomfort is revealing deeper sin and let it be confronted by love and mercy. I can allow the Holy Spirit to stretch me, to make me more like Jesus. I can look my doubt and fear straight in the face, over and over, a dozen times a day. I can make the most of this crowded season, because the reality is, that without these beautiful human beings all up in my space, I would continue living blissfully unaware of how far I am from true dependence on Jesus.
Pretty soon, we’ll have a baby boy joining us in this full house of ours. From what my friends who are parents tell me, the sacrifice that comes with kiddos brings on a whole new level of revelation about selflessness. Right now my belly feels like its stretched as far as it can go right now, and I have this feeling that the rest of me is about to be stretched when he finally arrives.
Cheers to more real, true dependence on Jesus for everything. Knowing Him more fully is so worth it all.